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Fortitude in the Fire

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior calls back, “I am the storm.”
By William Hunsaker

The desire, the physical determination, and the strength of the mind. The triangular fortitude among survivalists and those seeking the adventure and the art of self-reliance. Within this triangle, mental strength is the foundation that holds the key to unlocking the primal ability to sustain. Unlocking the natural skill set that lies within all of us that lets one prepare for the unknowns; the surprises that come knocking on our doors. But, how do we build such a strong foundation of mental strength that the key is placed in our hands?

Where do you stand in this triangle? Do you have the desire to survive? The physical ability and determination? Or, are you already holding the key? Perhaps you have the desire but have yet to acquire the set of skills needed to build the foundation of mental toughness. Once we have the desire to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones we need to assess our own physical capabilities. What does that look like? Our ancestors who survived had the physical abilities to provide for their basic survival
needs. They walked great lengths with nothing on their backs or limited tools while providing for their basic survival needs. They also had to survive with little more than their wits and their physical capabilities. The desire to live out-weighed their fears or lack of knowledge.

My desire came when I decided I would defeat my enemies. Enemies that manifested themselves into the sand being blown into my eyes and mouth while explosions and gunfire robbed me of my senses. Enemies including financial woes, or maybe losing a loved one in a disaster. Once I had that desire, my want became a need. I needed to be able to efficiently self-sustain. Once I understood that, I began applying the skills I had and acquiring new ones. Once I realized my want became a need, I sought out professional survival and wilderness training.

Training under duress is a survivalist’s best friend. Steel isn’t forged by the hand alone. It is forged by the whole body, the hammer. The hammer that remains steady and focused in order to be driven into the steel, into the fire. The hammer must remain solid and conditioned to maintain its purpose. Much like the hammer, we have to discipline ourselves through the conditioning of our body to escape depletion when the survivalist needs to push forward the most. For many in the survivalist
community, we are a body of skilled gardeners, builders, and master’s of adventures. However, is this enough to push forward under the most harrowing conditions?

During my experience, I was able to apply skills I already, naturally had. From day one of my training, I brought with me confidence in myself, my physicality, my keen sense of ability to pay attention to detail, and miscellaneous skills like tying knots and making a simple fire. At the time, I was only self-taught, much like many of us seeking to acquire these survival and wilderness skills.

The skill sets you do have can be transferred and enhanced into applying it to real world experience. We train through application. Confidence is built and relies upon even the most basic skill sets. When we are trained to apply those skills a multitude of times in everyday occurrences our self-doubt begins to fade away and our abilities evolve. Evolving requires, once again, to step outside of the comforts we have in our every day life. Evolving requires a never-ending desire to learn. Order out of chaos, the hammer forming the blade.

Desire, check. The understanding of the physical determination to keep moving, check. The strength of the mind? We’ve made it to the foundation. Now, who will place the key in our hands? You. It’s all up to you. You’ve gone this far, why stop? For most of us, we quit not because of lack of skill or physical ability, but because our minds may have never been forced to evolve past our normal, or daily, sense of self. It’s easy to wake up in the morning, pour a glass of water, and scramble some eggs on the stove. The illusion of cooking on a campfire scrambling those same eggs and grabbing a drink from your canteen as skills for survival. In the midst of true survival, place yourself, imagine it, the eggs are gone, the campfire is out, the water is frozen and a snow storm unexpectedly moves in. Do you panic? Do you take action? Maybe both. The skills to survive that you have trained for naturally push you forward. You find shelter, you gather materials to start a fire, and the confidence you have through experience, tells
you to wait out the storm and you’ll be okay. You might be cold, but you’ll be okay.

What did my foundation look like when I was ready to build it? How did I acquire the mental toughness that we must have in order to survive almost anything? Everyone throws around the word trauma as an excuse for being broken and weak. Trauma can either make or break you. In my life, I have had many reasons to break. Starting in my youth, being tough was a necessity and requirement. I didn’t have a choice. I decided to use that as I moved on through life, finding my purpose in the military, spending many years at war. However, I never let my mind be at war with self-doubt. This is a requirement and a condition of the life I continue to live.

Professional training is one of the most important steps I took to march down this path. There were times I wondered if it was all worth it. Was it worth the time? Was it worth the time off from a comfortable living. I knew this journey was going to be a long road with no true ending. I knew my potential to be successful was there, despite knowing it was my choice to quit at any time during my training. I wanted to defeat yet another enemy, but it was myself this time. I had my limits. Everyone does. Could I push past them? Well, that was what I had to prove, not to anyone, but only to myself. When I realized this, the key was placed in hands.

“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.”

-Jim Rohn

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